Sunday, September 18, 2011

Part 62 by Taylor.

"Kyrian, tell Laurel to drop back. I don't know what sorcery Melkor might have prepared for us, and I'd rather be safe than sorry," Mintara told her general. Kyrian gave the word to an aid, who scurried off to deliver the news to Laurel. Both Mintara and Kyrian knew that Laurel would be disgruntled at best, but they each had an uneasy feeling as they approached the plain. Kyrian glanced around at the faces of the soldiers around her. She saw the fear in her heart mirrored on their faces. Rhovanion snorted and side-stepped nervously. Kyrian patted the mare's neck soothingly. The action calmed her spirit as well.

An ashen-faced scout rode up and reined his horse to an abrupt stop next to Mintara. He frantically began to babble something to her. Mintara shushed him and listened carefully. Her face remained expressionless after he had finished, but Kyrian had seen the scout's fear. She shivered as a chill came over her. The scout looked so terrified.

Mintara dismissed him and nodded to Kyrian, who groped for her horn. She sent out a short blast, calling all of the generals. Laurel, Cerelda, Landlion, Goricnal, and Tomas rode up quickly. Mintara motioned for them to follow as she rode Emerion away from the troops. The generals gathered in a half circle around the wizard.

"Melkor has done something that I would not have thought possible. He has created morgals."
They all gave her blank looks. Mintara sighed. "I don't have time to describe them to you, but I'll tell you what you need to know. They are completely unpredictable and wild. They are not human, more like crazed animals. Their strength is not in battle prowess, but in sheer numbers. Be prepared for anything." She paused for a moment. "Also, this signifies that Melkor is much stronger than I feared. Therefore, I want you all to leave him to me. He will surely kill all of you if you come too close."
They all nodded, except for Laurel, who coughed and scuffed her boot in the dirt.

"Fine. Now, let's get back. We have an army to lead." She and Emerion took off. All of the others exchanged looks. "Okay, thanks for the pep talk," Goricnal muttered. Faint grins appeared on the faces of the others. "Come on, we should get back to our posts," Landlion said, turning Meldarion around and cantering off. Goricnal and Tomas followed. Kyrian remained, facing Laurel and Cerelda. "Laurel, I know you're not planning on following Mintara's orders," she began. Laurel grinned guiltily. "Kyrian, I'm beginning to think that you know me too well."
Kyrian smiled back. "Just, don't do anything stupid, all right?"
Laurel feigned a look of innocence. "Who, me?" She winked mischievously at Kyrian's stern appearance, then turned and jumped into Cerelda's saddle, taking off. Kyrian shook her head and made her way back to the army.

Landlion led the cavalry in front. Then came the foot soldiers, led by Kyrian and Tomas. The archers, commanded by Goricnal, brought up the rear. Laurel flew high above, surveying the whole scene. She would help where she was needed, which would be everywhere. Mintara rode at the very front, next to Landlion. They were as ready as possible.

They spilled over the ridge and onto the expansive plateau. They could see the massive army at the other end, but couldn't tell what they were. They looked like half-naked, screaming savages. The whole army eventually made it up onto the plain, where they reformed into neat ranks.

The two armies stood, facing each other. Laurel swooped down and landed next to Mintara. They could both see Stepheneis at the head of the army. Laurel gritted her teeth and glared daggers at him. He smirked, and raised a horn to his lips. Landlion raised his own. Both armies sounded their battle horns simultaneously. And both armies let loose with wild shouts of war. "Charge!" Landlion shouted, spurring Meldarion forward. The cavalry and foot soldiers followed. The archers marched slowly, hanging back as they fitted arrows to their bows.

Kyrian glanced over at Tomas to see if he was scared. His scarred face was expressionless as they rode forward. Her heart broke to see him like that. She resolutely turned forward, resolving to concentrate on the task at hand. After all, the army needed her.

A twinge of pain in his leg caused Landlion to wince. Mintara laid a hand sympathetically on his shoulder. Landlion's head whipped around, and he stared at her in shock. She quickly withdrew her hand and directed her gaze straight forward. A little grin lifted Landlion's lips, though he was careful not to let Mintara see.

Laurel and Cerelda flew high overhead. "Let's take a look, shall we?" Laurel murmured to the young dragon. Cerelda's answer was to swoop down and glide over the army, safely out of range of any arrows they may shoot. Laurel was shocked. "It's a good thing Mintara didn't tell us about this! I don't know if we would have had much of an army left if they had seen these creatures!"
What do you think you're doing?! Being stupid again? Ah, yes, I thought so. Get out of there! I don't-"
With a sigh, Laurel cut off Mintara's mind-speaking. "Or should I say, mind-ranting!" She giggled to herself as she turned Cerelda back.

The archers had all fitted arrows to their bows. Goricnal stood with his hand raised. "Fire!" he yelled, dropping his arm. A myriad of arrows rose into the air. There was a moment where everyone seemed to hold their breath. Then the arrows dove, and morgal screams rent the air as the arrows pierced their exposed flesh. Hundreds of the creatures dropped dead in their tracks. But thousands more still came on.

Landlion heard the men behind him gasp as they neared the advancing morgals. He inwardly recoiled at their hideous faces, but steeled himself. With a shout, he drew his sword and plunged into the mass.

Fighting the morgals was unlike anything any of them had ever done. The beasts swung their weapons wildly, without any real skill, but haphazardly enough to do some damage if you weren't being careful. Many times, they didn't use their weapons at all. Instead, they jumped up onto the man on top of the horse, digging their teeth in wherever they could find exposed flesh and tearing at them with their strong hands.

The foot soldiers followed, fear reigning in their eyes. Kyrian's lips were set in a grim line as she drew her sword. A morgal looked up from a fallen soldier it had just killed. Its huge, black eyes fixed on Kyrian. It snarled and jumped at her. Kyrian spun aside and brought her sword down across its back. It let out a a blood-curdling scream as it died. Another animal-like yowl came from behind her. Kyrian inwardly sighed; she knew it had just begun.

Mintara spun and slashed with her staff, cutting down the morgals like wheat. But they came in ever-increasing numbers. Emerion plunged and kicked, spearing the creatures with his shining silver horn, and crushing other's skulls with his hooves.

Laurel and Cerelda dove down, unleashing fire upon the morgals. The creatures had basically no defense against the torrent of flames. Laurel almost felt bad for doing it. They were helpless against her. Remember, they are not humans. They are evil creations of Melkor.
Laurel smiled as Cerelda spoke to her mind. She still found it uncanny that her dragon knew her thoughts. She strengthened her resolve and silently thanked Cerelda.

Suddenly, through the crowd, she spotted Stepheneis, standing unchallenged. None of the troops had reached him yet. Well, she would change that! Cerelda dove and unleashed a rain of fire on the wizard. He rolled out of the way and thrust his staff at the dragon. Cerelda felt as if she had been struck with an incredible force. With a screech, she fell from the sky. Laurel leapt off of the falling dragon at the last moment, landing in front of Stepheneis with her sword drawn. She knew that Cerelda had not been hurt.

"Ah, Laurel. We meet yet again. I've been looking forward to this reunion." He reached under his cape and drew out his sword. Without warning, Laurel attacked, viciously swinging her sword. Stepheneis backed up, skillfully blocking her attacks.

Cerelda lumbered to her feet and saw her master battling the evil man. She couldn't breathe fire without risk of hitting Laurel. She spread her wings and lifted to the sky. She circled around and flew a few feet above the ground, straight towards Stepheneis's back. Just as she opened her jaws to snap him up, he ducked and spun, all in one motion, and jabbed his sword up at Cerelda's unprotected throat as she passed. The young dragon let out a horrific scream and hit the ground, her body pushing up a mound of earth as she slid. Crimson blood stained the ground and flowed from her throat.

Laurel made a move to run to her fallen dragon, but Stepheneis blocked her path. She raised her sword and fought him, trying to maneuver around him. No luck. Stepheneis knew her plan and successively thwarted it. Laurel panicked as she caught a glimpse of her dragon, lying motionless on the ground with the terrible wound staining her copper neck. But she just couldn't work past Stepheneis. She put renewed effort into her attacks, growing reckless. Stepheneis smiled; this would be easier than he thought.

~

Kyrian pulled her sword from yet another morgal. She wiped her brow wearily. She had lost track of Tomas somewhere in the frantic fighting. She looked around the field for him. Countless bodies of men and morgals littered the ground. Kyrian refused to linger on them, just made a quick scan of the area. No Tomas in sight. She refused to let herself think the worse. Instead, she looked for her next foe. She had worked herself to the edge of the battlefield. She saw a flash of red hair off a ways. She squinted, and saw that Laurel was battling a young man clad in black. Stepheneis. She also saw Cerelda, lying in a heap. She gasped and ran for all she was worth.

She skirted around the battling duo, rushing to Cerelda's side. Blood flowed out of the gaping wound on her neck. Kyrian bit her lip and dug around in her pouch for the right materials. She pressed star-shaped leaves onto the wound, wrapping over them with a strong piece of cloth. The bleeding subsided immediately. Kyrian gathered more plants and opened Cerelda's jaws with both hands, placing the plants in her mouth. With an effort, the young dragon swallowed them. "Good girl," Kyrian said affectionately. She would leave Cerelda to rest, and heal. Now, she turned her attention to Laurel and Stepheneis.

~

Mintara found herself momentarily free of foes. Something drew her gaze to the black ridge up ahead. Her breath caught in her throat at the sight of the tall, arrogant figure standing there. Melkor. She grasped Emerion's mane and swung up. The angry unicorn spread his slender wings and shot into the air with his infuriated wizard. They landed behind Melkor's tall back. "Ironic, isn't it?" he said, without turning around. "I started practicing dark wizardry to be more powerful. I thought I could withstand the evil, and still be strong. All for you."
"Don't lie to me," Mintara spat in hate. "You delved into dark wizardry because you wanted to be the most powerful being in the universe! I was merely a pawn."
Melkor still didn't turn. "It could have been yours too, Mintara. We could have ruled Terulan together as the indisputable tyrants. Instead, you had to follow Emerion." Mintara felt the unicorn's steady presence come up beside her, calming her spirit. Melkor continued with a smirk in his voice, "How did that work out for you, Mintara?" He suddenly spun and pointed his staff at the unprotected unicorn. A sharpened blade of black mist shot out and speared Emerion in the side. The unicorn let out a horrific scream, then fell to the ground. Mintara felt as though she herself had taken the brunt of the blow. She turned to Melkor and saw him grinning at her. She screamed and sprang at him, brandishing her staff. Melkor spun and ducked, thrusting out his own dark staff.

~

Kyrian could see that Laurel's swings were too wide, and she was lunging too far, exposing herself. Stepheneis seemed to be toying with her, a sick smile on his face. Kyrian gripped her sword tighter and ran toward him. 

Stepheneis must have sensed her coming, for he spun and swiped at her legs. Kyrian jumped to the side while Laurel slashed at his head. But he ducked and cut Laurel's arm on the upswing. Now he battled both girls. He seemed to know their movements before they made them. The only conclusion the girls could come to was that he was using his wizardry somehow.

Laurel swung at his head while Kyrian swiped at his legs. Stepheneis managed to dodge both lunges, but cut his sword forcefully across Laurel's wrist. She cried out as she clutched her wrist, her sword dropping to the ground. Her vambrace had protected her arm from the actual slice of the weapon.

As soon as Stepheneis struck Laurel's arm, he crouched under Kyrian's next swing and spun around with his sword extended. The shining tip ripped into Kyrian's side. She screamed and dropped to her knees, clutching her middle.

Tomas felt a tugging at his heart. He scanned the battle field. He froze as he saw Kyrian fall, feeling like his heart had stopped in his chest. He ran toward her, felling morgals as he ran.

Quick as lightning, Stepheneis turned and grabbed Laurel by the throat before she could pick up her sword again. He brought her up to her feet with his hand still around her neck. Laurel clutched at his fingers, trying to pry them loose, but he was too strong.
"Laurel, you really should have learned to choose your battles more wisely," Stepheneis smirked. "Actually, my real revenge is for that half-elf." He motioned to Kyrian on the ground. "But, the Dragon Rider is quite a nice prize as well. Not to mention that lovely dragon. She'll make quite a nice pet." He grinned again as he raised his sword.

Kyrian lay gasping on the ground, arms still wrapped around her middle. She saw Stepheneis holding Laurel by the throat. With an intense effort, she drew a shining dagger from her boot. Moaning in pain, she drew up on one elbow. Gritting her teeth, she drew back her arm and threw the dagger weakly at Stepheneis's back before she collapsed.

Stepheneis suddenly screamed in pain. The dagger hadn't penetrated deeply, but was enough to shock him. Laurel's fist was a blur as it shot up and punched Stepheneis in the eye. The blow threw him off balance, and Laurel wrenched his hand free from her throat. Stepheneis opened his eyes just in time for Laurel's foot to connect with his chin. His head snapped back, and he fell onto his back, shoving the dagger in the rest of the way and finishing the job.

Laurel stepped over the lifeless wizard and rushed to Kyrian prostrate form. Tomas reached her seconds later. Laurel quickly checked her vitals and found her to be still breathing. She looked between Kyrian and Cerelda. Tomas could see that she was in between a rock and a hard place. "Go. I'll take care of Kyrian. Besides, I think Mintara needs you and Cerelda." Laurel looked at him in surprise. He hadn't spoken for two days! But she had no time to ask questions now. She thanked him with her eyes and ran to her wounded dragon. Tomas turned back to Kyrian and opened the healer pouch strapped to her waist.

~

Laurel ran to Cerelda, and found her plucky dragon well enough to fly. "C'mon girl, time to disobey orders!" she murmured as she climbed into the saddle. Cerelda spread her wings and took off, faltering a bit at first, then regaining her balance.

Mintara and Melkor were still sparring with their staffs, but using a little magic as well when they got a chance. So far, Mintara seemed to be holding up fairly well, but everyone knew that time was the issue. Melkor was stronger; therefore, the longer this battle dragged out, the better for him. Mintara fought ferociously, but Melkor held her at bay, seemingly not flustered. Laurel landed close to them and jumped without preamble into the fight.

Melkor didn't say anything or act surprised. He just sped up his defenses. It seemed to Laurel that he was moving with superhuman speed. Without warning, he went on the offensive. Mintara and Laurel were forced back. 

Tomas worked feverishly over Kyrian. His efforts were finally rewarded when she cracked open her eyes and managed a half-smile for him.

Melkor just kept coming. Laurel's foot bumped against a sheer rock wall. They were trapped. Melkor grinned; Laurel could see that he considered the battle already won. Hot fury raced through her veins. She lashed out with her sword and distracted him, raising her knee and kicking him flat-footed as hard as she could in his knee. She heard a satisfying crack and watched as Melkor stumbled back and sank to one knee, his sword drooping, his knee obviously shattered from Laurel's forceful kick.

Mintara gave no mercy, but pressed forward, raising her staff for the deadly blow. But Melkor was far from finished. He pointed his staff in front of him and swung it in a wide horizontal arc. A powerful force emanated from it at lightning speed. It hit Laurel and Mintara so hard it lifted them off their feet. They were thrown onto the ground with bone-crunching force.

Laurel moaned from where she lay on the rough rocks on her back. The shield on her back had protected her from broken bones, but the force of the blow had knocked the breath from her lungs and smacked her head on the sharp rocks. She could feel the warm blood dripping down her hair. She couldn't move to get up; she felt like she had been battered against a rock cliff by huge waves of the ocean. She managed to raise her head and look for Mintara. The wizard had been closer to Melkor, therefore the force was more potent. Also, she wore no armor. Laurel could only hope that her wizardry had protected her somehow.

Mintara was not un-hurt in the least. The shock of the blow didn't leave her time to prepare a defense, and she was slammed down onto the rocks. She painfully got to her knees and looked for Melkor. And the sight that she saw sickened her.

Melkor struggled to his feet, letting out a low cry of pain when he accidentally put weight on his shattered knee. He leaned heavily on his staff and muttered some strange chant. Mintara couldn't understand the words, but the feeling of pure evil pervaded her soul.

Laurel saw Melkor's lips move. A terrifying evil surrounded her. She screamed at the terror and tried to shut it out by covering her ears. But the feeling didn't subside.

Black mist poured out of the tip of his staff. It fell and swirled around Melkor's injured knee. Slowly, the evil wizard straightened up, putting his full weight on his leg. The mist fell away, revealing his perfectly healed leg.

Laurel knew despair that she had never felt before. The full reality of it all hit her then. They couldn't win. They couldn't kill him. The pain in her body from her slam onto the rocks was so intense that it threatened to rob her of her ability to breathe.

"Mintara, you cannot kill me," Melkor said as he slowly strode toward her, his voice full of false pity. Mintara wanted to spit in his leering face, but found that Melkor's power held her motionless. "I will get to you in a minute," he said in his thunderous voice. "But first, I have some unfinished business to take care of."

Laurel saw him coming, and made a feeble attempt to pick up her sword. Her world spun, her eyes refused to focus. She saw Melkor's black boots halt right next to her face. He drew his black sword and poised it above her heart.

Mintara's rage was intense. Rage that she was completely helpless in this whole situation. She could still move her eyes. She saw Melkor advancing toward Laurel's motionless form. She saw Emerion, lying in a puddle of his own blood. She cried out inwardly in furious frustration. At once, a calming presence soothed her soul. Only one had an effect on her like that. Her gaze darted over to Emerion. She saw the unicorn's indigo eyes open and lock gazes with her. Mintara closed her eyes and felt Emerion's power flow into her, melding with her own. She let it build inside her, then lashed out with it, breaking Melkor's hold over her.

Laurel saw Melkor stagger as if thrown off balance. He whirled around to saw Mintara stand up, her staff shining with a white-hot light. With a murderous expression on his face, he strode toward her.

Melkor had taken one step when Mintara began to whisper. "Simar, my father. Please, please, help me in my time of need. I deserve none of your pity, but please, help me save this girl. Help me." She pointed her staff at Melkor, but made no move to strike.
Melkor stopped and pointed his staff at her. Black mist spun around the tip. "Father, please!" The black mist shot forth, straight toward Mintara's heart. She had no time to dodge.

Time suddenly slowed. The deathly spear of mist slowed to a crawl in the air. All movement in the battle field moved at a fraction of its normal pace. A shining white staff, too bright to look at, descended from the sky and touched the tip of Mintara's. Several other staff descended and also touched hers. A silver point touched Mintara's staff. She jerked her gaze over and saw Emerion standing next to her, his wound fully healed. A fine point of white-hot light formed above the tips, and the staffs withdrew.

Time returned to its normal speed. Melkor grinned; Mintara was about to die. There was no way she could escape. Her staff was dull and lifeless. But suddenly, it changed. He blinked, unable to believe his eyes. The light at the tip of Mintara's staff was so bright, he was forced to look away. His own missile was lost in the brilliance as if it had never existed. He fell to his knees, covering his eyes and howling in pain. The light felt as though it were searing every nerve. It quieted somewhat, and he looked up. Mintara's dark eyes locked with his. "Mintara, please," he croaked. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Melkor struggled to his feet. Her eyes opened swiftly. Melkor saw them harden, and knew that he was doomed. "Goodbye," she said, her voice quiet and emotionless. She closed her eyes and shot the flaming spear straight at his heart. "Noooo!" Melkor screamed, his eyes closing as he drew his last breath.

The spear of light pierced through his wicked heart. He fell to the ground with a terrible, guttural scream. The light missile disappeared, leaving a hole through his heart. Laurel struggled to her feet and stood next to Mintara. They both stared down at his motionless form. Slowly, the edges of Melkor's garment and body began to dissolve into mist. It made a hissing sound as continued to eat away at his body. Soon, all that remained of Melkor was a heavy, swirling black mist.

The mist grew in size, then swept down into the valley below where the armies were fighting. Every morgal howled and began to dissolve as soon as the mist touched them. The mist continued to rush through the ranks, until every morgal was gone. And with that, the mist, the last vestige of Melkor's evil, disappeared. Complete silence reigned.

Mintara and Laurel stood there, staring at the spot where Melkor had just lain, unable to believe that it was all over.

Tomas and Kyrian looked up and saw that the morgals were gone.

Landlion rested his sword on the ground and looked around, not daring to believe that they had won.

The arrow dropped from Goricnal's hand as he looked up to the ridge and saw two lone figures of women sillouetted in the western sun.

A mighty shout went up from the valley. Landlion threw his hat into the air and shouted for joy. Goricnal hugged the waist of the soldier nearest to him. Tears of joy dropped from Tomas's eyes.

Mintara and Laurel surveyed the joyous tumult below them. They simultaneously turned to look into each other's eyes. Laurel suddenly laughed for sheer joy and threw her arms around the wizard. Mintara laughed, the first real laugh Laurel had ever heard, and hugged her back. They released each other and descended into the rejoicing throng below. 

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